Life is what we make of it, especially in the month of August. To some people August is the most wretched month of the year. Henry Rollins wrote that August was “summer’s last messenger of misery.” To other people, August is the month to soak up the last joys of summer. The well-established, but unofficial tradition, is that summer runs for Memorial Day to Labor Day. These next few weeks are the waning days of summer.
Summer in Mississippi means oppressive heat. This summer I have walked across a scorching asphalt parking lot and felt my shoes cling to the asphalt. I have also watched distorted heat waves rise from the artificial turf of football fields and felt sorry for football players going through pre-season practice.
Summer is the season of pests like mosquitos, fire ants, and jellyfish. It is the time of year when unlucky earthworms get baked on the sidewalk by the summer heat. It is the season of painful sunburns and dangerous heat strokes. Few people who grew up in Mississippi can say that they have never been burnt on a metal slide or made the mistake of sitting on black rubber swing in the mid-day heat.
Summer plays tricks on us. It is also a very enjoyable time of year. Summer is the season of popsicles, snowballs, ice cream, watermelon, tomatoes, peaches, muscadines, and blueberries. It is more casual time with a slower pace of life. According to tradition, it is the time of year to wear seersucker and white. It is the time of year to watch puffy white summertime clouds drift across the sky, to read as waves peacefully crash onto the beach, and to enjoy the sounds of summertime thunderstorms that pop-up seemingly out of nowhere. Summer nights are time to watch the pin-point illuminations of the lighting bugs through the trees.
Summer days can be spent enjoying the water. People often have a favorite childhood “swim hole.” For some it was the Leaf River, Bouie River, Paul B. Johnson State Park, a local creek, a neighborhood lake, or community swimming pool. For me, it was the Petal Rec pool. It operated off Corinth Road in 70s, 80s, and 90s. The pool was shaped like the state of Mississippi. The bottom of the pool was rough and would bruise your feet. It is where I learned to swim and where I spent many summer days and evenings. I get nostalgic for that old swimming pool that closed many years ago. I’m sure many people have fond memories of their summer “swim hole.” The nature of summer water activities has changed with time. Today there are several local splash pads for children to enjoy. Paul B. Johnson State Park, Hattiesburg Zoo, and Palmer’s Crossing currently have splash pads and one is planned for Petal. Just last week Hattiesburg Zoo just announced the addition of a water park coming the summer of 2023.
My childhood summers included the joy of detecting the faintiest sounds of the ice cream truck meandering through the neighborhood. One of my fondest of memories was getting to splurge on a chocolate/peanut covered ice cream cone or a patriotic-themed bomb-pop from the ice cream trunk. Another summer staple of my summers were blueberries. My grandfather planted a multitude of blueberry bushes near his house. Over the years a few of the blueberry bushes have been lost to disease or storms, but most remain. He departed this world nearly a decade ago, but one small part of his legacy are the abundant blueberries that ripen every summer. It is impossible to pick all the blueberries, but the birds seem to enjoy the leftovers.
Counting our blessings is one keys to happiness in this life. Today we are blessed with the luxury of air conditioning and sunscreen. Air conditioning tames the summer heat and sunscreen subdues the sun’s harmful rays. Both are modern inventions that help us enjoy the summer. I encourage you to appreciate the final weeks of summer. If you haven’t gotten enough of summer by Labor Day, remember that in Mississippi, September can feel like summer’s encore production.
Keith Ball is a local attorney and a lifelong resident of the Friendly City.